Is there a secret to staying close with your friends despite real world pressures – work, family, money, and time?
I am very social and it is important to me that I spend time with friends. However, it is rarely easy. We all have busy lives and, for me, it is difficult to prioritize fun friend time over the needs of my family and my job.
This is a very common feeling, I have found. When life gets busy, women’s friendships are one of the first things to go.
Female friendships are special. Friends teach us, support us and calm us. They fill in the gaps in our marriage and our families to make us whole. And, they help us remember who we are – besides the maid, the chef, the taxi driver, the bookkeeper and whatever else our family and work roles make us feel like.
The ongoing Nurses Health Study conducted at Harvard Medical School and Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston reported that the more friends a woman has, the less likely she is to develop physical impairments with age, and the more likely she is to lead a joyful life. In fact, the results were so significant, the researchers concluded, that not having close friends was as detrimental to your health as smoking or carrying extra weight.
If you are trying to make friends, always say yes when you are invited to do something, even when it’s with someone you don’t particularly want to hang out with. And, don’t back out or show up late. Being social all the time is exhausting, but if you need to find a friend group, you need to do the work. The more you are out and about, the more new friends you will make.
After someone asks you to do something, always reciprocate the invitation. Most people do not want to be your social director, so this allows a nice back and forth. If someone invites you to their home or to hang with a group of their friends, write them a thank you note on stationery explaining how much the gesture meant to you. These kinds of courtesies will keep you on the guest list.
Sustaining a long-term friendship takes work. You must set aside time to be with your friend, really listen to her, and put forth a true effort to understand her. You should be there to support her during the good AND bad times.
Women tend to be insecure and we often become competitive with each other. Don’t do that. If your friend looks great in her size 2 jeans, tell her skinny ass she looks great! If your friend accidentally gets pregnant (again) after you’ve been trying for eight years, just be happy for her! Don’t make everything about you. There are probably lots of qualities you have that your friend wishes she had – that’s why she likes you after all. Make your friend feel like you are her champion and she will do the same for you.
While it’s not always easy or natural, I try to remember the following when I am around other people:
Be genuine. Be open. Be present.
Be accepting. Do not judge. Be positive.
Be encouraging. Be supportive. Ask questions.
Show interest. Give compliments freely. Smile.
And, for God’s sake, put away the iPhone!
Lastly, do not gossip, lest ye be gossiped about. It’s easy and fun to talk about others, but what goes around comes around. So, mind your own business and people will be much more comfortable in your presence.
I once read a statistic that goes something like this… We have tiers of friendships and the closer the friendship, the smaller the tier. Most people can manage 2-3 very close or best friends, 10 regular social contacts and 150 acquaintances.
Does that seem like a large or small number to you? Facebook makes me feel like I have a lot more than 150 acquaintances, but the number is limited to people with whom you actually socialize, including family. Your 2-3 best friends includes your significant other and anyone you talk to regularly, but who may not be in the same city.
The desire to be around our girlfriends may be there, but we may not have the time to make it happen.
According to a UCLA study, women have a natural reaction to seek out their friends in times of stress, something that helps their bodies return to normal physical states. When women are stressed, their bodies respond by releasing a hormone called oxytocin, which actually limits the fight or flight response and makes women more likely to tend their offspring and seek out their female friends. As they do so and come to feel more relaxed, they release more oxytocin, further reducing their stress levels.
I find that the friends I see more often are the friends with whom I have regular activities scheduled. That means, if it’s important to see your girls, plan a regular get together. Daily, weekly, monthly, whatever works for your schedule. Most of my regularly planned activities are things I would be doing anyway – working out, grabbing my morning coffee, walking the dog, and taking my kiddo to the park.
Your girlfriend time doesn’t have to be a fancy night out or a trip to the spa. Just get together and share your real, everyday life with the people who love you. Sometimes letting someone into your secret chaos is just what your friendship needs. A true friend will love you for it. Anyone else isn’t worth your time!
What challenges and solutions have you found with girlfriend time? Anyone have ideas you could share to help us all get more social?
Cheers to girlfriends who make life better-